LAS VEGAS, N.M. ( Associated Press) — Firefighters in the foothills of New Mexico’s Rocky Mountains were preparing Monday to dig out new firebreaks and remove brush to create more defensive lines to prevent a massive forest fire destroy more houses and dry pine forests.
The fire, which is the largest in the United States, has consumed about 300 homes and jumped a highway late on Sunday — raging in rugged areas hard to reach by firefighters and prompting a warning from authorities that more village residents villagers prepare to flee quickly.
Another wildfire in New Mexico, in the mountains surrounding one of the federal government’s key facilities for nuclear research, has Los Alamos National Laboratory and community officials bracing for possible evacuations. Authorities stressed that there was no emergency, but that the flames were about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the lab and were growing.
“If you don’t have to be at work, it’s time to prepare to work remotely,” lab director Thom Mason told employees in a video. “Conditions can change quickly, it’s been very dry, very windy, and we have to be respectful of that risk and be prepared for whatever comes.”
On Monday, the gusts of wind that had complicated the fight against the fire in previous days did not cease. Wind has fanned New Mexico fires for weeks, with only brief interruptions, and the latest wave of back-to-back days of extremely dangerous wildfire conditions is unprecedented, forecasters said.
Ronayne reported in Sacramento, California. Associated Press writers Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed to this report.